Pale Honey have wasted no time preparing a new album, blending classic rock guitars once again with a rhythm section that isn’t afraid to deploy a Kills-like electric setup or even a cowbell every now and again. That combination brings the roll back into rock ‘n’ roll, it’s something you can actually dance to whilst rocking out simultaneously. It seems so wrong to splice the old and the new so strongly, but it really works and though it’s not original, it’s never done enough (what does originality even mean any more anyway?). It’s got bits of the Kills in, as said before, but the ‘oohs’ and generally the vocals are like Warpaint decided to become a hard rock band. If that’s not enough to get you interested, we don’t know what will.
This album release went under my radar earlier this month so it only seems fair to review it now. Pale Honey are a Swedish two-piece, but it isn’t like your recent spout of rock duos trying to tear things up once again. Pale Honey moves from lush pop songs ‘Bandolier’ to the loud/soft dynamics of Pixies ‘Youth’. Despite the expected stripped-back sound, they actually layer their sounds very well, often mixing in synths, multiple guitar tracks and vocals. A lot of it calls back to the 90s, on tracks such as ‘Lonesome’ which has a whiff of ‘Song 2’ Blur about it and ‘Tease’, which is a taste of Rid of Me / To Bring You My Love-era PJ Harvey. However, it’s sometimes hard to wonder which their stylish, glittery video game synths are just propping up a mediocre rock band.
The best moments of Pale Honey is when the band verges on the odd. ‘Fiction’ descends into reverby-XXness, but then again there’s some surf rock guitar and an obnoxious cowbell that somehow make it better. The lyrics are somewhat hard to interpret, when guitarist Tuva Lodmark sings ‘Go to sleep / you’re all diseased again’. This is followed by the beautiful fingerpicked ‘Desert’ which had charmingly sloppy guitars that remind of some kind of beach scene. Lodmark sings ‘I drown, baby’ which contrasts the shining synths and the subtle bassline. However, there’s trouble to be found in the synths. They pop up every now and again and completely take over the song from any other instrumentation, especially the drums, which are frequently lost in the mix. There is a flourish of strings at the end of ‘Desert’, which is hardly necessary and only serves to over-dramatise the song.
‘Tease’ sounds like the soundtrack for an early-00s action movie that was probably bad, but the soundtrack was killer and that’s a compliment. Lodmark sings ‘Why’d you tease me so?’ over EDM-ish synths and laser gun sound effects that are so over the top it’s good. The band take themselves seriously, from that artwork to their songwriting, but the instrumentation is a completely different. ‘0100’ starts as a gentle acoustic track before a farty guitar line that pops with funk comes rushing in and the synth appear once again. It’s hard to gauge where the fun ends and the conscious songwriting begins. Maybe I like that, maybe it is a flaw.
Down on paper, everything is good. However, when it comes to writing songs Pale Honey are left behind. They have their good, shadowy moments such as ‘Over Your Head’ where Lodmark sings ‘Do you require / My desire?’ and describes a controlling partner (either herself or the other). Even some of the weirder moments have their way of being endearing, such as the funky ‘Fish’ which ascends into a surf-rock solo and a crescendo chorus. However, for every good moments, there’s the awkard ‘Lonesome’, which flickers with potential before throwing in some over-the-top synths to mix things up and ruins what could be a two-minute punk-rock song.